Thursday, June 05, 2008

Longing to Go Home

Psalm 120 is the first of the fifteen Psalms which are entitled Psalms of Ascents. There is several debates on how these psalms were used. Most hold that they were sung by those who had to travel to Jerusalem for the different festivals which the men had to be present. Some old Jewish teaching indicates that perhaps the Jewish priest sung one of these psalms on each of the fifteen steps leading up to the temple. However, they were used, they were an important part of the Jewish ritual system and religious life.

Psalm 120 is a great start to these group of songs because it expresses a dissatisfaction with the place the psalmist is currently living. It marks the beginning of their journey and that journey greatly anticipates the arrival at Jerusalem. The psalmist is longing to go home.

Read Psalm 120 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

It strikes me that this is the feeling of the believer as well. How we long to make the journey, so to speak, to the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22)! We are so tired of sin and pain and death that we cannot wait to stand in God's presence. This is akin to what the psalmist is writing about.

Understanding that outlining poetry is committing a mile injustice to the material, but also understanding that my intending audience best learns in outline style, I have been working on an outline and I need help completing it. Here is my rough draft:

How to handling living in a sinful world.

I. We face terrible distresses but God answers us. (vs.1)

II. We face deceitful tongues but God saves us. (vv.2-4)

III. We face barbaric enemies but God brings peace. (vv. 5-7)

The whole point of the sermon would be to point out that the psalmist is honest about living in a lost world. It is not a bed of roses. As one commentator put it, "God rescues us from distress but does not preserve us from distress altogether." So the believer should learn some encouraging principles from this sermon regarding the dissatisfaction they experience in this lost world.

I think the phrase "deceitful tongues" and "barbaric enemies" could use some work. I am also wondering if the whole construction gives away "the punch line." That is, in the teaching point, I give God as the answer and thus I am wondering if the teaching is over. I also do not like the "how to" in the title. In fact, I am not thrilled with the title at all. I have come to a standstill but I know I am so close.

I would sure like some input from several people. What do you think? I am abusing the text terribly? Do I need to change the whole direction of the sermon? If you have some suggestions on different phrasing or anything like that, please post them.

I am attempting to finish each on of these psalms of ascents with a song or hymn from our time that captures the same sentiment. I think a song that captures what the author of Psalm 120 is attempting to communicate is old Gospel song, Sweet Beulah Land (click to listen).

I'm kind of homesick for a country
to which I've never been before.
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken,
And time won't matter anymore

Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land... sweet Beulah Land

I'm looking now across that river
to where my faith is gonna end in sight.
There's just a few more days to labor,
Then I'll take, my heavenly flight

Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
and someday on thee I'll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land